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Midtown Athletic Club

Chicago, IL

Located off Chicago’s industrial corridor, Elston Avenue, the Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago responds to the recently redesigned Elston, Damen and Fullerton Avenue’s intersection. The site is situated in the negative space left between three very popular Chicago neighborhoods: Lincoln Park, Logan Square, and Wicker Park. As a result, the building aims to bring human scale to a “big-box-retailer” area, and become a socializing hub for local residents to connect.


The design intent is to transform Midtown from the biggest indoor tennis club to the biggest lifestyle center in the US. With the program pivoting around the second floor indoor and outdoor lounge areas that create a sense of oasis like relax, the program is divided into a plinth that hosts all the fitness program; and an elevated two story glass volume contains the guestrooms.


Midtown pushes the urban club’s programmatic envelope, bridging the differences between retail, office, hotel, wellness, and fitness under one roof. Upon entering, a 37 foot long marble and granite reception desk, and a 15 ton backdrop wall of granite block ends from the Telengana Mountains in Southern India, intuitively guide members and guests through the entry. Human centric design makes the 250,000 sqft club easy to navigate. Located on the ground floor are retail, spa, lockers, indoor pools, tennis lounge and 16 pre- indoor tennis courts. Going up the main staircase is the sunken landing pit, a meeting point designed to enhance the socializing qualities of the project. From here, the project stems into the various areas, divided into restaurant, mind&body, and several unique fitness spaces, all of which connect to outdoor pools and the restaurant’s outdoor seating area.


The third floor, which hosts the interval training turf and the boxing spaces, serves as a buffer between a noisy club and the quiet hotel. It is a glass transition from the fitness plinth to the hotel box floating above, enabling views from and though the building. The fourth and fifth floors include a 55 key boutique hotel. The Hotel at Midtown.

This project, which included demolition and renovation of an iconic tennis club, had the designers rethinking materials and its uses. The timber used for the board formed concrete beams in the indoor pool is repurposed as wall cladding in the second floor fitness space; the typically discarded granite block ends from quarries in India found a home as the Lobby backdrop wall; and the ceiling screen over the main stair is constructed with materials salvaged during demolition. These are just some examples of the thought and detail that went into the process of making the biggest fitness club in the country.

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